Tag Archives: charities

Latest phase of Tory ‘hostile environment’ would force charities to help deport people sleeping rough

The Conservative government has been caught trying to persecute foreigners and some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – yet again.

The scandal centres once again on the Home Office, which has been trying to pressgang homelessness charities into becoming border guards.

The plan – euphemistically titled the Rough Sleeper Support Service (RSSS) – is to get charity outreach workers to pass on the personal details of homeless people to the Home Office where, if they were found to be from foreign countries, enforcement officers would deport them.

The scheme deliberately ignores data protection and privacy laws by demanding that personal information be passed to the Home Office regardless of whether the subject gives their consent.

This breach of national and international law was imposed to make it easier to deport people. A Home Office email stated that this would be harder if individuals were allowed to withdraw consent for their information to be used in this way, as would be permitted legally.

There has been pushback from charities who have refused to agree a data-sharing deal – that breaks the law – with the Home Office and local authorities.

This Writer wonders whether charities were also being gagged with non-disclosure agreements foisted on them by the Home Office – a Conservative government trick we have encountered before.

It seems odd that the first time this atrocity came to public attention was after the human rights charity Liberty received answers to a Freedom of Information request.

And Liberty was not pleased. According to the charity’s Gracie Bradley:

“It’s disgraceful that the Home Office, local authorities, and charities are attempting to turn trusted homelessness outreach workers into border guards. Homelessness charities must refuse complicity in the hostile environment.

Bradley said referrals will likely result in immigration enforcement action.

She said ministers should be concentrating on combating the root causes of homelessness rather than targeting rough sleepers. “Consent and data protection should also be at the heart of our interactions with public institutions,” she added.

[A] Public Interest Law Centre spokesman added: “Despite its name, the new RSSS offers no ‘support’ to homeless migrants living in the UK. It is a ‘hostile environment’ measure in all but name.”

Shockingly, the Tories have been unrepentant, now that their plan has been revealed.

A Home Office spokesman actually told the Guardian: “This enables individuals to access support or assists them in leaving the UK where appropriate.”

Assists them? They can only be assisted to leave the UK if they have been asked whether they want to – and it seems perfectly clear that the Home Office does not intend to seek any such permissions.

This is yet another atrocity from the home of the “hostile environment” and Home Secretary Sajid Javid should be hauled before Parliament to explain his department’s flagrant abuse of the law.

If he fails to account for his department’s actions, then we will have yet more proof of the Conservative Party’s prejudice against anybody who isn’t rich and privileged.

Source: Secret plan to use charities to help deport rough sleepers | Politics | The Guardian

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Gagging clauses: Chris Grayling silenced justice charities to stop them revealing what a fool he is

Grayling: What does a fool do to prevent his stupidity becoming public knowledge? He gags everybody in the know.

The Times‘ investigation into the Tory government’s use of non-disclosure agreements (gagging clauses) to prevent outside organisations from saying anything that would damage their reputation continues.

Today the focus is on current Transport Secretary Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling and the disastrous changes to the probation service that he demanded when he was in charge of Justice.

We all know that his ideas were stupid, short-sighted and dangerous because we have seen their result – but it seems we could have found this out much earlier, if he had not silenced every organisation that could have told us at the time.

Here‘s the report:

Chris Grayling’s changes to the probation service were deemed to be a failure, but charities dealing with the fallout were prevented from saying anything that would damage his reputation

After Chris Grayling oversaw a £3 billion overhaul of the probation system in 2015, his reforms were condemned as a failure.

Prison inspectors found that changes introduced when he was justice secretary resulted in criminals being released without anywhere to live and without staff assessing “significant risks” to their partners and children.

Dame Glenys Stacey, chief inspector of probation, said the overhaul meant there was “no real prospect” of preventing prisoners from returning to crime.

The findings prompted criticism from campaigners, politicians and probation staff. Some of the key charities working with former prisoners, however, have appeared to be unconcerned.

The rest is hidden by the paywall but you get the idea.

Labour’s Richard Burgon commented on Twitter…

That’s putting it mildly!

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‘Lobbying’ Act is performing exactly as intended: Stopping charities from campaigning

Introduced in 2014 and dubbed the ‘charity-gagging law’, the Lobbying Act provides a set of rules for charities that publicly campaign in the run-up to elections [Image: Getty].


We knew this would happen when the so-called Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act was imposed on the UK, back in 2014. It was labelled the “Gagging Act”, for crying out loud!

And we had hard evidence of it in February 2015 – more than two years ago, when John Pring of Disability News Service wrote: “Disability organisations have been intimidated by new lobbying laws – and the risk of losing government contracts – into failing to campaign on key issues like social care and welfare reform in the run-up to the general election, say disabled campaigners.

“They fear that the “sinister” impact of last year’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act [also known as the ‘Gagging’ Act], and the trend towards funding charities through government contracts to provide services, are ‘closing down all debate’.”

I remember attending meetings with my MP, who at the time was the Liberal Democrat Roger Williams. He made promise after promise to stand up for free speech – to our faces – then went back to Westminster and told us that cosmetic changes made by the Conservatives meant there was nothing to worry about.

We all knew that wasn’t true, and in the 2015 general election Mr Williams was replaced…

By a Conservative!

Local politics is insane. And the “Gagging Act” has been given free rein to live up to its name.

Labour has vowed to repeal it – but Labour is not in office, due to bizarre decisions by the voting public in June this year. Perhaps it’s time to vote sanely?

More than 100 charities have warned that they are being gagged by controversial government legislation that they claim is preventing them from campaigning on issues affecting the poorest and most marginalised groups in society.

An open letter signed by 122 organisations including Save the Children, Greenpeace and Christian Aid says campaigning is being “lost” from public debate due to the “draconian” requirements of the Lobbying Act.

Dubbed the “charity-gagging law”, it dictates what charities can do publicly in the 12-month run-up to elections in order to ensure individuals or organisations cannot have an undue influence over the vote.

Given the possibility of a snap election, charities say they are not able to carry out political campaigns now for fear of being hit with retrospective fines.

Read more: More than 100 charities claim they are being gagged by anti-lobbying rules


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“Hey, you! Don’t buy that Christmas single! Buy this!” Or why not buy ’em all?

The cover to Hobo’s Christmas, by Guy Calhoun.

It seems there’s a slight controversy about which political Christmas single we should all be buying.

Should it be the single in memory of Jo Cox – a cover of The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want?

The Stones themselves have waived their claim on royalties, meaning more money from each sale will go to the Jo Cox Foundation – and bookmaker William Hill has said it will donate money staked on the single being Christmas Number One to charity.

You can use this link to buy it, and here’s the video:

Or should it be the piece in support of Jeremy Corbyn, JC4PM4ME?

All profits from this one go to food bank charity The Trussell Trust, it is available here on CD/Vinyl, here on download, and there’s a video as well:

… and then this morning This Blog received a comment from ‘malsainsbury’ about another Christmas song, by her son Guy Calhoun.

It’s called Hobo’s Christmas. All proceeds will be donated to charities supporting the homeless, and This Writer has a soft spot for it because the video was shot in my original home city, Bristol.

You can buy it here, and – guess what? – there’s a video:

Whatever you think of these songs – and I’ve seen some fairly vitriolic remarks about the ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ single – they have all been created with good intent, to help charities and the people who rely on them.

Whether you buy one, all, or none of them is up to you.

If you do buy any of them – have a Merry Christmas! You’ll be helping others to do the same.

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Tories blew £100k of public money hiding ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ firms – because they were profiting from it?

The scheme was pioneered by Tory welfare slasher Iain Duncan Smith [Image: Getty].

The scheme was pioneered by Tory welfare slasher Iain Duncan Smith [Image: Getty].

This Blog, and others, has spent years warning that the Conservative Government will spend huge amounts of public money hiding what it is doing.

So the revelation that Iain Duncan Smith spent £100,000 hiding the names of companies that have exploited the cheap, unpaid workers available through ‘Mandatory Work Activity’ comes as no surprise.

It is easy to see why. Between June 2011 and July 2012, the total profit made by Mandatory Work Activity provider companies, charities and councils was nearly £1 billion.

There was no cost associated with that profit, either – at least, not to the organisations involved.

You and I and everyone else who pays any tax at all put more than £16 million into making profits for those companies – as we were paying the benefits of the claimants who were being forced to work, and for far less than the then-minimum wage.

And that’s just for a 14-month period, ending more than four years ago.

Mandatory Work Activity has made many billions of pounds for the organisations taking part, and I suspect the Conservative Party has fared very well out of it, also.

How many of the organisations taking party in the scheme are donors to the Conservative Party – and how much did they give?

You see? It was all part of a nasty plan to spend public money and make a private profit for the Tories – to help them gain an unfair advantage at election times when they will be able to outspend everyone else, no doubt.

That is the purpose of Mandatory Work Activity: Making money for the Conservative Party. And that is why we look down on every dirty organisation that has been taking part.

The Tory government blew £100,000 of public money trying to hide a huge list of firms that used jobseekers for unpaid work.

Tesco and Asda were among household names on a list of 500 companies, charities and councils named as taking part in ‘Mandatory Work Activity’.

The list dates to 2011 but was only released in July – after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an astonishing four-year legal battle to hide it.

Officials claimed releasing the information would hurt “commercial interests” – but eventually lost in the Court of Appeal.

The whole saga cost more than £100,000.

That is because taxpayers had to fund both sides of the court action in a farce branded “worthy of a movie plot”.

The DWP spent £92,250 on lawyers and court fees trying to keep the list secret.

It did so by challenging the government-funded Information Commissioner watchdog (ICO), which had to spend £7,931 defending its case.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “Damian Green said the film I, Daniel Blake was ‘a work of fiction bearing no relation to the modern benefits system’.

“And yet here we have a scenario worthy of a movie plot in which a government tries to hide the truth of its own failings from the public.

“They think nothing of demonising those who need the support of our social security system, a system that is there for any one of us in a time of need, forcing them into unpaid work or using spurious reasons to sanction them to manipulate the unemployment figures.

“At the same time they fritter taxpayers’ money on lawyers to cover up their failings and defend pernicious policies like the bedroom tax.”

Source: Tories blew £100k of public money hiding list of firms that used jobseekers for unpaid work – Mirror Online

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‘Immoral’ DWP is ‘stubbornly ignoring’ calls for sanctions review, say Churches

Actors demonstrate how DWP officials have reacted to calls for a full, independent review of their sanctions regime.

Actors demonstrate how DWP officials have reacted to calls for a full, independent review of their sanctions regime.

Churches and charities have attacked the Department for Work and Pensions’ refusal to undertake a full review of the benefit sanctions system.

The DWP has issued a response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions – four months overdue – but has failed to commit to a review as recommended.

The Select Committee, the Government’s own advisors, the Social Security Advisory Committee, charities and Churches have all called for a full, independent review of the regime [along with This Writer and his colleagues]. These groups have highlighted the extreme hardship caused, the inconsistent and unjust application of sanctions and the lack of evidence that they encourage people into work.

The Baptist Union, Church in Wales, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and charity Church Action on Poverty have called for an immediate suspension of sanctions against families with children and people with mental ill-health. They say the DWP’s response does not go far enough and have called again for a review.

“In refusing to undertake a full review, the DWP is stubbornly ignoring the calls of parliament, expert advisers, Churches and charities. Most importantly, it is condemning people, many of whom have also spoken out eloquently against the inhumanity of the current practice, to unjust and pointless punishment,”  said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church.

Responding to the DWP’s announcement that they will try a ‘yellow card’ system, Mr Morrison added: “If a court is working to a bad set of laws for a bad set of reasons and making bad and unreliable decisions, it’s not the sentencing policy you look at. ‘Yellow cards’ will reduce the number of sanctions, which is welcome, but won’t address the fundamental problems that occur long before the decision to sanction has been made. That’s why we need a full independent review”

Even if a benefits claimant is able to demonstrate that they cannot afford food due to being sanctioned, most people will still not become eligible for a hardship payment or loan for a further two weeks and, once eligible, it will take a further three days before payment actually arrives.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP in Leeds and deputy chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, said: “GPs are increasingly seeing people who are suffering serious consequences as a result of the current benefit sanctions system. Vulnerable people can be left with no money to pay for essentials such as food and heating and this can then have a damaging impact not only on their physical and mental health but also the health of family members, including children, who depend upon them. Government policy directly puts the health of patients we care for at risk. Immediate action should be taken to end these punitive actions.”

In March this year, the Churches published a report showing that nearly 100,000 children had been affected by sanctions in 2014 alone and that people with mental health problems were being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day. As a result of their campaign more than 2,000 people wrote to their MPs asking them to support a review of the system.

The report told stories like that of Martin*, aged 60, who missed an appointment with the job centre because his wife died suddenly. He was sanctioned for six weeks, leaving him with nothing to live on and in a state of confusion as his wife had previously handled most of their joint paperwork. He came to the local church for help and charity Acts435 helped him with his living expenses until he could come to terms with the new shape his life had taken.

“The Government claims that sanctions help people into work, but the evidence for this claim is practically non-existent,” added Mr Morrison. “However, there is plenty of evidence that sanctions cause hardship, suffering and hunger.

“Any system that seeks to ‘change people’s behaviour’ by using hunger as a weapon is immoral.”

*Not his real name.

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Revealed: Cameron’s lies over Euro bill

– Verbal malfunction: “I’m not going to pay that bill on 1 December. If people think I are- I’m going to- They’ve got another thing coming.” Cameron can’t even announce his complaint properly.

David Cameron has lied and lied again about the £1.7 billion bill from the European Union, it has been revealed.

An investigation by Full Fact has shown that the UK has been taking part in an exercise to revise the way payments are calculated since at least May this year, meaning that discussions on the subject must have been taking place previously.

The Treasury must have known about these discussions, meaning George Osborne would have been aware of them – and this means that Cameron himself should have been told. If he had not, then his government has not been doing its job properly. He says he knew nothing until he was presented with the invoice this week.

Not only that, the amount does not reflect any increase in the size of the UK economy during the current Parliament, but – humiliatingly for Cameron – during the period of the last Labour government. He reckoned it was based on his own government’s (dubious) economic recovery.

The report states: “EU law requires that member states measure the size of their economy according to EU standards. The UK hasn’t been fully compliant with these standards, so statisticians at the ONS have spent the last year revising old estimates of the size of the UK economy. Some, though not all, of these changes have had a generally upward impact on the figures the EU uses to determine the UK’s contribution to its budget.

“The resulting increase in the estimated size of the UK economy relative to other nations – specifically between 2002 and 2009 – is what’s caused the EU to ask for more money. If the Commission had known the size of the UK economy at the time, it would have charged us more, so the £1.7 billion represents the ‘back payments’ following the counting changes.”

There is some good news for Cameron, though. As the bill is for ‘back payments’, it seems likely to reduce in future years – no matter how the economy has performed under his government. His claim that the bill is because his government has turned the economy around is simply balderdash.

And it seems the largest factor in the increased bill has been changes in measuring the contribution of the not-for-profit sector – mainly charities and universities. As universities are currently experiencing a fall in income as their intake from foreign countries drops off due to “unwelcoming” government policies, it seems reasonable to expect that the UK’s contribution will fall.

zcoalitionfailimmigration

The best way forward now is for Cameron to accept the advice of Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, that he should swallow his pride and pay up.

There’s no reason the UK cannot amortise the amount over a period of time. If it does so in an agreed manner, it may avoid having to pay punitive 2.5-per-cent-per-month interest payments.

But then, Cameron has proven to be an economic idiot and may not understand this.

That’s what happens when you’re born into money; you end up with no idea of its value.

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Who will ‘Help to Work’ really help?

140428IDSshrug

The government’s latest draconian measure – to drive people who have been living off the state for more than three years into all the nonexistent jobs that ministers insist are waiting for them – was launched today. (Monday)

Help to Work forces jobseekers to sign on every day, commit to six months of voluntary work, or sign up to a training scheme (the last two effectively removing them from the government’s unemployment figures without getting them a job) – or face having their Jobseeker’s Allowance docked for increasing lengths of time.

It’s clearly a scam to fiddle the joblessness statistics but, dear reader, you’re intelligent enough to have worked it out before you even started reading this.

Of course, voluntary work must be offered without coercion – otherwise it’s slavery – and for this reason leading charities have already announced that they will boycott the mandatory work placement part of the scheme.

Particularly disturbing – and we should be grateful that they highlighted this – is the fact that this aspect would lead to jobseekers doing more than double the 300-hours’-maximum community work than convicted criminals, who are ordered to carry out certain tasks as punishment for their offences.

The Guardian used the government’s own data to prove that Help to Work does not increase anybody’s chances of getting a job, and is more likely to put people off signing on for the benefits to which they are entitled – a ‘punishment’ effect that the government is desperate to play down.

Esther McVey, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme in support of the scheme, said instead that it would be particularly useful for “people who have been away from the marketplace and the workplace for long periods of time”, and specifically mentioned those suffering from mental illness.

All right then, let’s ask this:

How well would this scheme fare in trying to find a job for a man aged 60 with no academic qualifications worth mentioning (left school at 14 and has lied about further education achievements), whose working life consists of a failed Army career that lasted less than six years, followed by irregular stints selling arms, working in a property company and selling gun-related magazines, in between periods on the dole. He has been funded by the taxpayer continuously since 1992 – a total of 22 years ‘parked’ at our expense. There are concerns about his state of mind, with fears that he suffers from paranoia and delusions.

Could Help to Work really find a job for a man like this?

Let’s hope so – because, if there’s any justice, Iain Duncan Smith will be looking for a job after next year’s general election.

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The end of patient confidentiality as NHS information is sold to insurers

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds - because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Americanised healthcare: It is appropriate that the only appropriate image I could find features dollars instead of pounds – because it is clear that the Tory government is changing the NHS into an Americanised insurance-based service.

Confidential information on NHS patients has been sold to insurance companies who used it in combination with information from credit rating agencies to identify customers and “refine” their premiums – increasing the costs of policies for thousands of customers, despite all the Tory-led government’s assurances to the contrary.

According to the Daily Telegraph, “a major UK insurance company… was able to obtain 13 years of hospital data – covering 47 million patients.

“As a result they recommended an increase in the costs of policies for thousands of customers last year.”

The revelation comes only days after plans to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England were put on hold amid a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations.

Only last Friday the BBC was reporting that critics of the scheme were “scaremongering”.

The Corporation – which has failed to report the new development – quoted Tory MP George Freeman, founder of Patients4Data, which represents charities and drug companies (and not patients, apparently) as follows: “We cannot let opponents peddling scaremongering myths stop patients benefiting from this quiet revolution of modern medicine.”

And last month, NHS England categorically stated: “No data will be made available for the purposes of selling or administering any kind of insurance.”

Vox Political has made it clear from the outset that this is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you. Now we have proof.

NHS England has delayed compiling the new database of English NHS patients until the autumn. You could help sink the scheme altogether, if you don’t want your government – and your NHS – to sell your information into the wrong hands. Just opt out of the data sharing scheme, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

Make no mistake – the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats in Parliament have betrayed you.

They have already sold hospital patients’ information to insurance companies, and there can be no doubt that the intention is to do the same with GPs’ confidential records, with a consequential increase in insurance costs to people across the country.

They are turning your beloved National Health Service into an insurance-based scheme, on the same lines as the vastly more expensive American system.

They have been lying to you.

They intend to profit from selling your information – to companies that intend to profit by using it against you.

Are you going to sit there and let them?

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Who will (unofficially) sponsor David Cameron’s next Prime Ministerial statements?

130819lobbying

Tobacco, fracking or private health companies seem the most likely choices.

The Conservative-led Coalition has become an excellent practitioner of bait-and-switch fraud, it seems. First it ‘baits’ the general public by promising a new law, reforming part of society that is seen to have fallen below the standards expected here in the UK. Then it ‘switches’ the legislation into something else entirely.

So it is with plans for a new law to end lobbying scandals. It won’t do anything of the sort. In fact, it is likely to lessen the legal burdens on lobbyists.

However, it will impose onerous new burdens on trade unions and charities, in what the Trade Union Congress has described as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”.

(This is not to say that the TUC believes the UK government is similar to an authoritarian dictatorship. View it instead as the TUC saying this is what the UK government has become under the Coalition)

The Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill apparently features a new, looser definition of ‘campaigning’ that risks including all activities that could be seen as critical of the government of the day – and if any government was likely to crack down on such activities, on any day, it’s this one!

Mr Cameron’s spokesman said this was not the aim, and that the plan was to ensure lobbyists’ allegiances are known, ascertain how much money is spent on third-party political campaigning and ensure trade unions know who their members are. His words may have been sponsored by CTF Partners (look them up).

The proposals are likely to introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists, but only firms which say it is their main business need register, only firms which meet ministers and senior civil servants need declare whom they represent, and in-house lobbyists are also exempt – so, from 988 meetings between the Department for Business and lobbyists in 2012, only two were with consultant lobbyists who would have had to declare the meetings under the new law.

An Independent article stated that the plans lack credibility and are regarded as “a bad joke” inside the UK’s £2 billion lobbying industry – so much so that the chairman of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recalled its members before the end of the summer recess, to hold evidence sessions on what he has described as a “dog’s breakfast”.

Graham Allen MP (Labour) told the paper, “This flawed legislation will mean we’ll all be back in a year facing another scandal.”

And lobbyists themselves said the industry could gain nothing from flawed legislation. Iain Anderson, chairman of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) and director of the lobbying company Cicero, said: “This law will only undermine public confidence.”

The planned legislation would also set a cap on the amount any organisation other than political parties could spend during elections, and would end self-certification of union membership numbers for all but the smallest unions, with records checked by an independent officer.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the BBC article that “this rushed Bill has nothing to do with cleaning up lobbying or getting big money out of politics. Instead it is a crude and politically partisan attack on trade unions, particularly those who affiliate to the Labour Party”. Bait-and-switch, see?

But she said the plan was much worse than that: “Its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election. No organisation that criticises a government policy will be able to overdraw their limited ration of dissent without fearing a visit from the police.”

Mr Cameron, now revealed as a corporate mouthpiece after his U-turn on plans for plain packaging on cigarettes (his election strategist Lynton Crosby also works for a major tobacco corporation), his support for fracking (several leading Tories stand to benefit if the process becomes widespread) and his government’s privatisation of the National Health Service, amazingly promised to crack down on lobbying in the Coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats after he, himself, described it as the “next big political scandal”.

If fears are borne out, the new law would have a direct effect on Vox Political and blogs like it. Rest assured that VP will continue criticising government policy and demanding better from the opposition.

They can’t say we overspend – we don’t have any budget at all.

My e-petition calling for MPs to be banned from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest is here, and is nearly at the point where a reply will be required from the relevant government department. Please support it with your signature, if you haven’t already done so.